The Art of Violence

Mysterious Book Report No. 432

by John Dwaine McKenna

I was intrigued by Dennis Lehane’s blurb on the cover: “S.J. Rozan can write sentences that make my jaw literally drop.

So I purchased a copy of her newest Lydia Chin/Bill Smith novel entitled, The Art of Violence, (Pegasus Crime, $25.95, 275 pages, ISBN 978-1-64313-531-1), and read the first sentence:  “Shifting colors on a monster billboard bled through the April evening mist, showed me a shadow in the alley.”

At that instant, I realized the endorsement was honest,  accurate and spot-on.  Simply put . . . Somebody sign me up.  I’m hooked!

The narrator of that awesomely complex and colorful first sentence is the protagonist, a New York City Private Investigator named Bill Smith.  The shadow is a man named Sam Tabor.  He’s a former client who’s just been released from Greenhaven State Penitentiary, where he was serving time for the stabbing death of a young woman after he was secretly dosed with PCP . . . a hallucinogenic commonly known as ‘Angel Dust.’  But Sam is also a talented, world class outsider artist, whose release from prison was engineered by a consortium of art critics, celebrities, business people and writers, who all want to bring his art into view for the whole world to admire and appreciate . . . then buy and sell for lots of money.

But Sam Tabor, while showing such promise and talent, is also a hard drinker who regularly experiences alcoholic blackouts in times of personal stress; like when his art is being featured in a gallery opening, and he has to interact with crowds of people.  He believes that during those blackouts he’s killed other women—and in one of several devious plot twists—he wants to hire Bill Smith to prove it because Tabor wants to go back to prison so that he won’t kill any other women.  He thinks he’s a serial killer.  A killer who wants no more victims on his conscience . . . and those are only a couple of the ingenious, well crafted and diabolic events and turnarounds in this easy reading, captivating and engrossing novel.


Ms. Rozan’s fiction has been awarded an Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero, Macavity, the Japanese Maltese Falcon and the Private Eye Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award.  You’ll soon see why if you read any of her outstanding novels. The Art of Violence  is a great one to start with!


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